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  • Michael Moorcock
    "a genuine philosophy for the 21st century"
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Well done, Chris ;) I wonder if you like to share more insights from your reading of Arendt? Your post just reminded me that on reading "The Human Condition" I found Arendt's approach of "Vergeben" and "Versprechen" the most practically useful expansion on "reciprocity" I've come across so far (which to me is an ethical "founding principle" that seems to be essential but is somewhat elusive at the same time.)

translucy: I know I said this would have to wait until after San Francisco, but as it happened I scraped up some spare time last night. ;)

I have extensive notes on 'The Human Condition' I want to write up, but it's a *major* endeavour - much more labour intensive than my usual long rambles. I will tackle this as part of the Ethics Campaign, I think, but when depends upon other factors. Knowing that you have some interest might encourage me to tackle it sooner - we'll see how it goes. :)

Best wishes!

I've used these (or similar) categories in my own musings on the subject. Agent-based would seem to have their focus on Who You Are, whereas Rights-focused would seem more related to What You Do. (Consequentialists would also be concerned with 'What You Do', except from a different angle; I might need to adapt my nomenclature.)

It's also interesting to note how each of these approaches can be perverted in their own way: Agent-based turns readily into public relations -- "How You're Seen" -- Rights-focused spawns rule-lawyers and loop-hole hunters, and consequentionalists -- well, anyone else watch Heroes? (or read The Watchmen, for that matter.)

Trevel: in working out these thoughts, I had hoped to be able to get into a Who, How, Why kind of space, but I was never able to tease apart a role for outcome-based approaches in this model. Perhaps it could be seen as Who You Are, What You Do, and What Happens - yet it is somehow unsatisfying to use 'What' twice.

Regarding Alan Moore's 'Watchmen', there is surely a Consequentialist parable embedded in this tale, although it has many other themes, of course. I think this might be the most... I'm not even sure of the right adjective... lets say 'impressive'... graphic novel of the twentieth century. I'm extremely doubtful the film version can do it justice.

Thanks for the comment!

I must admit that the more I think of it, the harder I find it to include outcome-based ethics in the same category of the other two -- which could simply be because I attend to Agent-based and Rule-based ethics for my own system. Yet, I find that who you are and what you do are naturally wedded together in a way that "What happens after" is not.

And yet the outcome must still be considered, I would think, if just to avoid particularly bad pitfalls -- long term disaster bought by short term good. (Do the means justify the end?)

Finally: I look forward to seeing the film version, as disappointing as it may be. I have been quite disappointed in how many of my friends (who have interest in such things!) have not read this before. There is a point, though: it is a book that is difficult to UNread; it changes the framework used in examining the super hero universe.

Trevel: we'll end up looking at the Consequentialist perspective in more detail at some point, I'm certain. I have a suspicion that even if one organises one's own ethics around agents and rights, one cannot escape a role for outcome-based thinking - even if it is just as an "emergency measure" when all other ethical approaches fail.

As for the permanent effects of Watchmen, I think it is the nature of the over-used term 'post-modern' that narratives that perform the relevant switch in perspective have enduring influence on our point of view of a particular genre. Sadly, my bleary Monday morning mind is incapable of furnishing the necessary additional examples to support my claim. :)

Best wishes!

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to mention that if one takes a consequentialist perspective, then one could justify doing all sorts of horrible things as long as one could justify the end result was worth it.

It seems if you combine all three approaches then that should work fairly well. I am never sure Chris whether my conclusions after reading your topics were what you were trying to say, or whether your intent was merely to either spark independant thought in the reader, or discussion.

Katherine: no problem commenting on an old post - part of the fun of this 'game' is that old material can come back up for fresh discussion!

I agree with you that Consequentialism, if not tempered by other ethical perspectives, can lead to some pretty horrific outcomes. I believe this is a basic problem with modern politics, actually.

And yes, my plan is rarely to lead people to a specific conclusion (although I may layout my own conclusions), but rather to provoke interesting thoughts and occasionally some debate and discussion.

Are you new here, incidentally? Or a lurker just commenting for the first time?

Best wishes!

I've heard the same argument against utilitarian ethics before, and I can't quite puzzle out why so many find it persuasive. Unattainability of complete morality owing to our human foibles is no more a decisive indictment of utilitarian ethics than it is a decisive indictment of Christian ethics, or for that matter, virtue ethics (Is there anyone we can point to that has truly been Aristotle's great-souled man?).

The complaint seems to rest rather on the fact that unattainability rests upon competence or intelligence, which rubs many people the wrong way (though, oddly, this may mesh with some of virtue ethics, which is occasionally quite practical in its application- I again refer to Aristotle's great-souled man). I can agree with this sentiment, but I also feel that this poses no significant challenge to utlitarian ethics provided that one distinguishes between the morality of an action and the morality of the actor. I am perfectly willing to call any action which brings into the world more human unhappiness as a moral evil, but the perpetrator of that action is not necessarily an evil agent. I feel that a person is acting morally if, to the best of his or her abilities and knowledge at the time, they act in such a way as they believe they are acting for the happiness of all involved.

"I know this is an old post, but I wanted to mention that if one takes a consequentialist perspective, then one could justify doing all sorts of horrible things as long as one could justify the end result was worth it. "

The consequentialist, would, of course, retort that one has a moral imperative to act in such ways that the end will be the best, and the truly horrific morality is the one that refuses to dare all in the pursuit of happiness for his fellow human beings.

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